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Green papaya salad

"Som tam" redirects here. For the film, see Somtum (film).
Green papaya salad
A dish of green papaya salad, made with papaya, beans, chili, pla ra, brined crab, hog plum, and lime
Type Salad
Main ingredients Papaya
16x16px Cookbook:Green papaya salad  16x16px Green papaya salad

Green papaya salad is a spicy salad made from shredded unripe papaya. It is of Lao origin[1][2][3][4] but it is also eaten throughout Southeast Asia. Locally known in Cambodia as bok l'hong (Khmer: បុកល្ហុង, pronounced [ɓok lhoŋ]), in Laos as tam som (Lao: ຕໍາສົ້ມ) or the more specific name tam maak hoong (Lao: ຕໍາໝາກຫຸ່ງ, Lao pronunciation: [tà᷆ːk.hūŋ]), in Thailand as som tam (Thai: ส้มตำ, pronounced [sôm tam]), and in Vietnam as goi du du. Som tam, the Thai variation, was listed at number 46 on World's 50 most delicious foods compiled by CNN Go in 2011.[5]


File:Zubereitung von Som Tam.JPG
Unripe papaya is sliced into thin strips during preparation

The dish combines the five main tastes of the local cuisine: sour lime, hot chili, salty, savory fish sauce, and sweetness added by palm sugar. The ingredients are mixed and pounded in a mortar; The general Lao name tam som literally means "pounded sour", however, the more specific Lao name tam maak hoong literally means "pounded papaya". In Khmer, the name bok l'hong also means "pounded papaya". In Thai, the name som tam, (a reversal of the Lao name), literally translates as "sour pounded". However, other pounded salads in Thailand are consistent with the Lao naming convention in which the word tam ("pounded") is listed first.

Despite the use of papaya, which one may think of as sweet, this salad is actually savory. When not yet ripe, papaya has a slightly tangy flavor. The texture is crisp and firm, sometimes to the point of crunchiness. It is this that allows the fruit to withstand being beaten in the mortar.

In Laos, green papaya salad is one of the traditional staples of the Lao. Pounded salads in Laos all fall under the parent category of tam som, which may or may not contain green papaya, however, when no specific type of tam som is mentioned, it is generally understood to refer to green papaya salad. For absolute clarity, however, the name tam maak hoong may be used, since this name means "pounded papaya".

In Thailand, it is customary that a customer ask the preparer to make the dish suited to his or her tastes. To specifically refer to the original style of papaya salad as prepared in Laos or Isan, it is known as ส้มตำลาว or som tam Lao or simply as tam Lao, and the dish as prepared in central Thailand may be referred to as som tam Thai.[6]

Traditionally the local variety of green papaya salad in the streets of Bangkok is very hot due to the addition of a fistfull of chopped hot Bird's eye chili, however with its rising popularity among tourists, it is often served now not as hot.

Additional ingredients

File:Pounding somtam213.jpg
Street vendor from Isan pounding green papaya salad in Bangkok
File:Som tam khao niao kai yang.jpg
Green papaya salad, grilled chicken and sticky rice is a popular combination in Thailand

Together with the papaya, some or most of the following secondary items are added and pounded in the mortar with the pestle:

Green papaya salad is often served with sticky rice and kai yang/ping gai (grilled chicken). It can also be eaten with fresh rice noodles (Lao: sen khao poon / Thai: khanom chin) or simply as a snack by itself with, for instance, crispy pork rinds. The dish is often accompanied by raw vegetables on the side to mitigate the spiciness of the dish.


Green papaya salad is claimed as an innovation of the Lao people,[8][9] which was introduced to central Thailand and the rest of the world by the Lao/Isan migrants moving to Bangkok to seek work.[10][11] Variations of the dish are found throughout Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and as well as in the West, where it is more commonly known by its Thai name.[12][13][12][14][15][16][17][18][19][20][21]

A non-spicy green papaya salad version also exists in Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand, which is much sweeter; it often contains crushed peanuts, and is less likely to have padaek or brined crab. These last are eaten raw, and both the Lao government and Thai government periodically issues health warnings about the risk of hepatitis.[22] Dried brine shrimp are used in this Central Thai version. There are also versions that make use of unripe mangoes, apples, cucumbers, carrots, and other firm vegetables or unripe fruit.

Instead of papaya, other ingredients can be used as the main ingredient. Popular variations in Laos and Thailand include:

  • Tam maak taeng / Tam taengkwa, with cucumber, usually the small variety
  • Tam maak muang / Tam mamuang, with green and unripe mango
  • Tam maak kuai / Tam kluai, with banana, while still green and unripe
  • Tam krathon, with santol, while still hard and unripe
  • Tam hua pli, with banana flower
  • Tam mayom, with Malay gooseberry
  • Tam som o, with pomelo
  • Tam mu yo, with mu yo sausage
  • Tam phonlamai ruam, with mixed fruit


See also


  1. "Thailand". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 11 April 2015. 
  2. Stokes, Daniel. 2003. Low language in high places: social and political perspectives on grammar in the prose of 'Rong Wongsawan'. Thesis (M.A.)--University of Wisconsin--Madison, 2003. P.38
  3. Burke, Andrew, and Austin Bush. "Eating." Bangkok: city guide. 9th ed. Footscray, Vic.: Lonely Planet, 2010. 157. Print
  4. "About Thai food". Retrieved 11 April 2015. 
  5. CNN Go World's 50 most delicious foods: place 46 Som tam, Thailand 21 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-10-11
  6. Maitreya. "Lord of Suvarnabhumi". Retrieved 11 April 2015. 
  7. Species identification of Thai Rice Field Crab
  8. "Khe-Yo's Chef Soulayphet Schwader on Laotian Cuisine and the Perfect Bite". Retrieved 11 April 2015. 
  9. Lee, Jonathan H. X., and Kathleen M. Nadeau. "Laotian Americans: Foods and Foodways." Encyclopedia of Asian American folklore and folklife. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, 2011. 733. Print
  10. Sirijit Sunanta. "The Globalization of Thai Cuisine". Retrieved 11 April 2015. 
  11. Burke, Andrew. "Eating." Bangkok. 8th ed. Footscray, Vic.: Lonely Planet, 2008. 144. Print
  12. 12.0 12.1 "EatingAsia". Retrieved 11 April 2015. 
  14. "The tao of papaya". 5 January 2010. Retrieved 11 April 2015. 
  15. "Asian Bites". Retrieved 11 April 2015. 
  16. "What to Eat in Thailand: Famous Thai Food". WhyGo Thailand. Retrieved 11 April 2015. 
  17. Xaixana Champanakone. "Lao Cooking and the Essence of Life". Retrieved 11 April 2015. 
  19. "Spicy Papaya Salad - Somtam - Traditional Thai Food". Learn Thai Language School. Retrieved 11 April 2015. 
  20. "Som Tum Thai (Green Papaya Salad, Thai Style) - Spatula, Spoon and Saturday". Retrieved 11 April 2015. 
  21. "The World of Flavors". Retrieved 11 April 2015. 
  22. "Clay's Kitchen : Tam Ra Ahan Thai (Thai Recipes) ตำราอาหารไทย". Retrieved 11 April 2015. 

Further reading

  • Cummings, Joe. (2000). World Food: Thailand. UK: Lonely Planet Publishers. pp. 157–8. ISBN 1-86450-026-3
  • Williams, China ‘’et al.’’. (). ‘’Southeast Asia on a Shoestring: Big Trips on Small Budgets.’’ Lonely Planet. p. 31. ISBN 1-74104-164-3
  • Brissenden, Rosemary. (2007). Southeast Asian food: Classic and Modern Dishes from Indonesia, Malaysia, .. Tuttle Publishing. pp. 434 – 439. ISBN 0-7946-0488-9
  • McDermoot, Nancie. (1992). Real Thai: The Best of Thailand’s Regional Cooking. Chronicle Books. pp. 121 – 146. ISBN 0-8118-0017-2

External links

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